St. Bonaventure starts a three-guard lineup featuring a senior and three juniors, but that experience has been able to help SBU break into the win column yet this year.
Out front, Wade Dunston (6-4, 190 lbs) and Ahmad Smith (6-5, 195 lbs.) provide most of the offense, while freshman Isiah Carson (6-1, 190 lbs.) keys the attack form the point guard position. Dunston averages 14 points per game, but has been somewhat loose with the ball, as he owns a 1:3 assist to turnover ratio. Despite only average shooting (35.6%0 from the field, he is very good at the line, where he owns an 81% success rate.
Smith is a solid all-around player, averaging 8.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per outing. He is also one of the team's better defenders, with ten steals in the Bonnies first five games. Carson looks to pass first and set up the offense, as he is shooting just 21% from the field. Off the bench, Willie Morse (6-3, 190 lbs.) and Kern Carter (6-2, 185 lbs.) provide most of the relief in the backcourt, chipping in with 6.4 points per game between them.
The star of the front line is Patrick Lottin, an explosive 6-7, 225-pounder who earned third-team preseason all conference honors. Lottin leads the team in both scoring and rebounding (15.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, respectively) and is also the team's best three-point shooter. Like many of his teammates, however, Lottin is prone to turnovers, as he has already yielded the rock 17 times this season.
The junior standout doesn't get much offensive help from starting center Yankuba Camara, who averages just 2.2 points per game, Camara is in the lineup primarily due to his 6-11, 250-pound frame, which gives the Bonnies at least some height to combat the inside attacks of their opponents.
Backing up that duo are freshman forward Michael Lee (6-8, 195 lbs.) and senior Saulius Dumbliauskas (6-8, 230 lbs.). Lee has been precocious, adding 6.6 points per game to the meager Bonnie offense, while Dumbliauskas, like Camara brings size and some bulk to the Bonnie defense.
A more accurate description for these two players might be "swingmen" as their roles cross the line between the typical "guard" and "forward" descriptions.
|Tue 7:00 p.m.|
WVU 40, 0-0
SBU 0-5, 0-0
WVU - 12
SBU - 326
St. Bonaventure, no doubt, would love to have Gansey to provide stability and scoring punch to a team that is struggling to right itself from the depths of probation. His all around play and hustling style is a great example of how to play the game, and many of the newcomers (there are five on the SBU roster) would benefit from watching him play.
The Bonnies didn't get a bad pickup to play that role, however. Dunston, a junior college transfer who starred at Bullis Prep in Washington, D.C., earned a starting role after pouring in 22 points in his first game as a Bonnie. Although his overall game might not be quite as strong as Gansey's, he will provide a defensive challenge for WVU, which will have to account for him no matter where he is on the court.
One thing WVU has going for it in this matchup is motivation. Although Gansey outwardly bears no ill will to St. Bonaventure, there's no doubt that he has been looking forward to this game. As he came off the court in the final minutes of WVU's blowout of Radford, he exclaimed "Bonaventure's next, baby!" When he talked about transferring from the Atlantic 10 school to West Virginia, he sounded as if he had received a last minute reprieve from the governor. It won't be a surprise to see a charged-up Gansey hurtling all over the Civic Center floor on Tuesday evening, but he must make sure to keep his erstwhile replacement in check.
Like John Beilein at West Virginia, head coach Anthony Solomon faced a massive rebuilding job when he took over the St. Bonaventure program. Racked with scandal, the Bonnies were at the depths of Division 1 when they hired him a season ago.
Remarkably, Solomon guided the depleted Bonnies to seven wins in his initial season, but has hit a rocky start to his sophomore campaign, as his team has failed to record a win in five tries thus far. Solomon's squad is plagued with a lack of effective shooters – something that long-time Mountaineer fans can sympathize with. The Bonnies are averaging just 57.8 points per outing, and have just twice shot more than 40% from the field this season.
With that handicap, it's going to be difficult for St. Bonaventure to match the productivity of West Virginia's improving offense. The Mountaineers have been able to run off turnovers and fast breaks to generate offense, and those points, combined with the production of an efficient halfcourt offense, have WVU scoring at a 79 points per game clip. If West Virginia gets to 70 points in this contest, a win is almost assured.
The Bonnies' starting lineup does match the Mountaineers fairly well, in size if nothing else. Like WVU, St. Bonaventure deploys a three-guard attack on many occasions, with swimgmen similar to Tyrone Sally and Mike Gansey. Players like Lottin and Dunston are capable of putting up points and causing West Virginia some problems, but West Virginia's superior depth and bench firepower will be difficult to overcome. What combinations will the Bonnies use to counteract snipers Kevin Pittsnogle and Patrick Beilein off the bench? With only one player taller than 6-8, St. Bonaventure may have trouble containing WVU in the halfcourt as well.
With his hot shooting of late, junior forward Kevin Pittsnogle has moved back atop WVU's career three-point field goal shooting percentage list. The Martinsburg native has made 42.1% of his long-range tries to date.
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Solomon is familiar with the Mountaineers, having served as an assistant at Notre Dame from 2000-03. During those three seasons, Solomon helped the Irish to three consecutive NCAA appearances. Solomon also served a one-year stint at Richmond, but that was before Beilein took over the Spider program.
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Two Bonnie assistant coaches also have at least a nodding acquaintance with West Virginia in general and the Charleston Civic Center in particular. John Brannen is a Marshall graduate who faced WVU in several games at that venue, although he has not faced John Beilein. Jayson Gee headed the University of Charleston program for several years before moving on to Olean. Both coaches are in their second season with the team.
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Courtesy of outstanding writer and all-around good egg Matt Keller:
West Virginia is currently in the most prolific three-point shooting stretch in its history, making at least nine in the last two games of last year plus the first four games of this season. The Mountaineers have never, in school history, had at least nine three-pointers in six straight games. Gale Catlett's teams rarely hit eight in a contest, let alone nine in a row for six consecutive games.
Even Beilein's WVU teams have never done it until now. If WVU had hit one more against St. Peter's it would have had a really nice-looking line of double-digit threes in six straight. The run has to end sometime, but hearing the twine sing at the end of three-point attempts has become a regular occurrence over the past half-dozen contests.
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WVU is a sparkling 55-18 in games played in Charleston. That includes a 48-16 on the two different floors of the Charleston Civic Center. Beilein will be putting his perfect 4-0 record on the line against St. Bonaventure, and if the Mountaineers pass that test, against Marshall on January 11.
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The realization just struck that the "M" word has been mentioned twice in this preview. At any moment, head coach John Beilein may come running out to advise us to pick another one.